Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 2

First of all, I need to make you all jealous of the hotel we stayed in. Cody got us hooked up with a free stay because of his perks from his business credit card. We stayed at the Westin at the end of the hotel zone in Cancun, where the beaches are the widest. It was nice because it wasn't crowded or loud and we had a bunch of perks by upgrading to the Royal Beach Club tower (compliments of Cody's membership). The rooms were huge and had these vaulted ceilings that were about 14 feet high. It felt like our own private villa. We received an awesome free hot, buffet breakfast (not merely continental) every morning and every evening we received free drinks and hot hors d'oeuvres - which were super filling and great because we ate there for dinner every night but one. Plus this is the view from our room looking out.
And this is the view looking in.

And this is what we saw every day.

And aren't I super sexy?!

Ok, back to day 2. We ate early and headed out on the 2 hour drive to Chichen Itza. We are so glad we rented a car. 2 hours was already long enough and we were super speeding (Cody averaged 87 mph or 140 kmh). I can't imagine how long it would have taken in a bus with tons of tourists. Instead of paying for a guide here, Cody bought a book on the place for $5 in the bookstore. It was great because we saw everything, could take our time and we received better descriptions.
We arrived around 10am and were able to take in the magnificent views of El Castillo- large temple, without a thousand people in our picture.  The cruise ships dock in the morning at Cancun and Playa del Carmen and the thousands of tourists from those ships usually arrive around noon.  We felt fortunate to beat the rush. 

This place was definitely magnificent and had a lot of crazy culture and dark, violent history. They had a ball court where people would come to watch and the winner would be sacrificed. I know I would be doing my best to lose the game. They would chop the winners heads off and place it in this building thing that was covered in skeleton heads. It's a Toltec structure called the Tzompantli, and in Aztec stands for Temple of the Skulls. They would also toss the heads of the warriors from conquered villages in here. Creepy? I think yes.

It's amazing how some of the buildings have retained the structures and carvings in the stone after several hundred years.

I don't know if you can see it, but in this stone there is a picture of a bearded man, which was kind of unheard of. Pre-columbian peoples (Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, Incas, etc.) didn't have any facial hair. Stories say that it is the great God -Kukulcan (perhaps Christ) - after he visited the Americas.
A cenote (deep water hole) where people were sacrificed to the Toltec Gods and thrown in. I really am glad I didn't live in this time period!

More cool glyphs. This warrior has the decapitated head of his victim in his left hand.

Cody being eaten by the great serpent.

The observatory. Archaeologists have discovered that the four openings in the observatory correlate perfectly with the 4 cardinal points. And they believe this was the most important structure in all of Chichen Itza. Again, their understanding of astronomy is unbelievable.

There was so much to see here in Chichen Itza. This is already a completely overloaded picture post, so I'll save you from more pictures from this ruin. Onto the next site. We drove to Ek Balam, a short distance north of Chichen Itza. It's more off the beaten path, but still quite amazing and well worth the time and money to visit it. It's one of the few ruins sites that still allows you to climb up the temples. The popular ones like Tulum and Chichen Itza are completely roped off and off limits to the public.

Little Mexican boys ran up to our car as we pulled in asking if they could wash our car. They will do anything for money. When we were done a lady even tried to open and close our car doors for us in hopes of a tip. Sorry, I can do that myself. If we gave money to everyone that tried to "help" us we would be broke. Onto the ruins.

The above and below picture show how many steps this building had. And they were steep and narrow. Cody ran to the top of course and I came along behind. You can kind of see Cody with his arms up in the air at the very top. My thighs were feeling it the next 2 days.

They put stucco over some of the figures and carvings on this building to represent what it would have looked like back in the day (While Tulum and Chichen Itza were designed with carved limestone, this site along with others from the earlier Classic Maya period had stucco covering the limestone base).

And this was right after the entryway into the fort.

On our way in and out of Ek Balam we passed this familiar landmark. An LDS chapel.

After our Ek Balam tour we headed back to Cancun to go out to dinner. We ate at Carlos 'n Charlie's. It was right in the thick of the fun atmosphere and we had a great time.


Emily said...

That is amazing that some of those structures are still standing! Sounds like some good history lessons!